Germany: Alliance of villagers protest RWE's plans to expand Garzweiler mine; expansion threatens existence of 12 villages

Author: Philip Oltermann, The Guardian, Published on: 10 October 2019

"'Human rights before mining rights': German villagers take on coal firm", 30 Sep 2019

The protest alliance is the first coordinated effort in more than 10 years against the expansion of the Garzweiler mine in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which threatens the existence of 12 villages that are home to 7,600 residents. Demolition of the first four villages is scheduled to begin in 2023.

Acting under the name Menschenrecht vor Bergrecht – Human Rights Before Mining Rights – the alliance of villagers announced [...] they would refuse an expropriation agreement with RWE under which the energy company would pay to resettle them.

This would mean the company would have to apply to the regional government for formal permission to dispossess the residents. But the villagers said they would then challenge this in court...

Menschenrecht vor Bergrecht hopes it is on firmer legal ground to resist dispossession now that the government has announced plans to phase out coal by 2038...

[A] spokesperson for RWE told the Guardian the group represented a minority of residents of the villages affected. “Three-quarters of villagers have concluded negotiations over compensation payments, and their villages will be rebuilt in new locations,” said Guido Steffen.

“We take notice of the villagers’ announcement and regret that these steps have to be taken,” he added. “We have a phase-out, not a breakdown of this industry, so we need the coal under these villages.”

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Related companies: RWE